Lindsey Graham’s moment, it seemed, came on the evening of Jan. 6. With crews still cleaning up the blood and broken glass left by the mob that just hours before had stormed the Capitol, he took the Senate floor to declare, “Count me out” and “Enough is enough.”
Half a year later, a relaxed Mr. Graham, sitting in his Senate office behind a desk strewn with balled napkins and empty Coke Zero bottles, says he did not mean what almost everybody else thought he meant.
“That was taken as, ‘I’m out, count me out,’ that somehow, you know, that I’m done with the president,” he said. “No! What I was trying to say to my colleagues and to the country was, ‘This process has come to a conclusion.’ The president had access to the courts. He was able to make his case to state legislators through hearings. He was disappointed he fell short. It didn’t work out. It was over for me.”
What was not over for the senator from South Carolina was his unlikely — to many people, confounding — relationship with that president, Donald J. Trump.
For four years, Mr. Graham, a man who had once called Mr. Trump “a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot,” exemplified the accommodations that so many Republicans made to the precedent-breaking president, only more vividly, volubly and candidly.
But Mr. Graham’s reaffirmed devotion has come to represent something more remarkable: his party’s headlong march into the far reaches of Trumpism. That the senator is making regular Palm Beach pilgrimages as supplicant to an exiled former president who inspired the Capitol attack and continues to undermine democratic norms underscores how fully his party has departed from the traditional conservative ideologies of politicians like Mitt Romney, Liz Cheney and Mr. Graham’s close friend John McCain.
To critics of Mr. Graham, and of Mr. Trump, that enabling comes at enormous cost. It can be seen, for example, in Republicans’ efforts to torpedo the investigations of the Capitol riot and in the way the party, with much of its base in thrall to Mr. Trump’s stolen-election lie, is enacting a wave of vote-suppressing legislation in battleground states.
Mr. Graham, of course, describes his role in far less apocalyptic terms. Even as he proclaims — from under the hard gaze of a half-dozen photos of Mr. McCain — that the Republican Party is now “the Trump party,” even as he goes on Fox to declare that the party can’t “move forward” without the man who twice lost the popular vote, Mr. Graham casts himself as a singular force for moderation and sanity.
He alone can fix the former president, he believes, and make him a unifying figure for Republicans to take back both houses of Congress next year and beyond. To that end, he says, he is determined to steer Mr. Trump away from a dangerous obsession with 2020.
“What I say to him is, ‘Do you want January the 6th to be your political obituary?’” he said. “‘Because if you don’t get over it, it’s going to be.’”
Many of Mr. Graham’s old friends on both sides of the aisle — and he still does not lack for them — grudgingly accepted as political exigency his original turn to Mr. Trump. His deviations from conservative orthodoxy, they understood, had left him precariously mistrusted back home. Now, though, they fear he has reached a point of no return.
“Trump is terrible for the country, he’s terrible for the Republican Party and, as far as I’m concerned, he’s terrible for Lindsey,” said Mark Salter, a close McCain friend who was the ghostwriter for Mr. Graham’s autobiography.
“Lindsey is playing high-risk politics,” said Senator Dick Durbin, a liberal Democrat from Illinois who considers Mr. Graham a friend. “He is pinning the hopes of the Republican Party on a very unstable person.”
What makes Lindsey run?
Over the last four years, pundits and political analysts have endlessly teased the question. Yet what emerges from interviews with more than 60 people close to him, and with the senator himself, is a narrative less of transformation than of gyration — of an infinitely adaptable operator seeking validation in the proximity to power. It is that yearning for relevance, rooted in what he and others described as a childhood of privation and loss, that makes Mr. Graham’s story more than just a case study of political survival in the age of Trump.
Raised just this side of poverty and left parentless early, Mr. Graham, 66, has from his school days chosen to ally himself with protective figures he calls “alpha dogs,” men more powerful than himself — disparate, even antagonistic, figures like Mr. Trump and Mr. McCain, the onetime prisoner of war so famously disparaged by Mr. Trump. Indeed, toward the end of his life, Mr. McCain privately remarked that his friend was drawn to the president for the affirmation.
“To be part of a football team, you don’t have to be the quarterback, right?” Mr. Graham said in the interview. “I mean, there’s a value in being part of something.”
It was in that role, amid unrelenting pressure from Mr. Trump and his sons, that Mr. Graham called Georgia’s top elections official in November to inquire about the vote tally in the state, which Mr. Trump lost by nearly 12,000. That call is now part of a criminal investigation of the Trump camp’s actions in Georgia.
Yet nothing Mr. Graham does or says seems enough to satisfy the Trumps. That has left the self-described conciliator struggling to generate good will on both sides of the political divide.
In mid-November, as he was publicly urging Mr. Trump to keep up the election fight, Mr. Graham made a previously unreported phone call to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., to revive a friendship damaged by his call for a special prosecutor to investigate the overseas business dealings of Mr. Biden’s son Hunter.
It was short, and not especially sweet, according to three people with direct knowledge of the exchange. Mr. Graham told Mr. Biden that, in attacking Hunter, he had done only the bare minimum to satisfy Trump supporters back home. (A Graham spokesman disputed that account.)
Mr. Biden, who viewed Mr. Graham’s statement as an unforgivable attack on his family responded by saying he would work with any Republican, but dismissed the approach as Mr. Graham trying to have it both ways, two people close to the president said.
“Lindsey’s been a personal disappointment,” Mr. Biden said a few days later, “because I was a personal friend of his.”
From Humble Beginnings
It is a truism of political biography that golf affords a window into both style and soul. And it has certainly played an important role in sustaining the precarious but durable Trump-Graham partnership. (That bond was on display in May, when the two men staged a Trump Graham Golf Classic fund-raiser, with an entry fee of $25,000.)
Still, the senator’s frequent impromptu trips to Mar-a-Lago remain a bit of a puzzlement to the former president.
“Jesus, Lindsey must really, really like to play golf,” Mr. Trump recently told an aide.
The game — and the status conferred by playing with Mr. Trump — is no small thing to a man who grew up on the creaky lower rungs of the middle class, living in the back room of his family’s beer-and-shot pool hall, the Sanitary Cafe, in Central, S.C., a mill town at the midpoint of the freight line between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C.
His parents, Millie and F.J. Graham — known to everyone in town as Dude — worked 14-hour days and slept in the cramped apartment next to the bar’s two bathrooms, their kitchen separated by a curtain from the smoky tavern, with its jukebox, pinball machines and peeling laminate-wood counter. The future senator shared a single room with his parents, his sister, Darline, and the occasional patron, often coated in mill dust, who would wander in tipsily to watch TV with the family.
Mr. Graham was very close to both parents, and he finds it hard to discuss their loss without choking up. But his mother was the warmer presence; her husband was a wry but undemonstrative World War II veteran devoted to his family but preoccupied with keeping the business afloat and prone, in Mr. Graham’s early years, to drinking.
“He had a tough side to him. He kept a gun behind the counter,” the senator’s sister, Darline Graham Nordone, recalled in a recent interview, adding, “You knew that Mr. Dude was a kind, good man, but you weren’t going to mess with him.”
It fell largely to Mr. Graham, 9 years older, to be parent to his sister. From his early teens, she recalled, it was Lindsey who helped her with her homework, Lindsey who gave her medicine when she was sick. Not too many years later, it would be Lindsey who told her that their mother was dying. “Lindsey took me to the end of the hall” at the hospital, she said. “He told me he didn’t know if she was going to make it.”
The Grahams did not have the money or the time for real vacations, so to bond with his father, Lindsey decided they should take up golf. They began playing at a chewed-up county course, and it became such a weekly ritual that, to save on rental fees, Dude Graham eventually bought an old electric cart that could be charged, free, at the course’s cart shed.
Shortly after Mr. Graham began attending the University of South Carolina, his mother was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. On weekends, he would ride a bus home to look after his sister. “It was just dark and lonely without him there,” she said.
Fifteen months after their mother died, Ms. Nordone, still in middle school, woke up to discover Dude Graham dead, from a heart attack.
“Don’t worry,” her brother told her, “I’ll always take care of you,” which he did as he ground his way through law school.
Had this childhood led Mr. Graham to seek out father figures in his adult life? “That’s a tough question,” she replied. “I just don’t know.”
Either way, his quicksilver mind and self-lacerating sense of humor made him a magnet for mentors and big brothers. Two of the earliest were his high school coach, Alpheus Lee Curtis, and Colonel Pete Sercer, the head of Air Force R.O.T.C. at the University of South Carolina, who guided him toward his first career, as a military lawyer, serving largely in Europe.
Another mentor was Larry Brandt, his law partner when he returned to South Carolina. In an interview, Mr. Brandt recalled that Mr. Graham’s career in politics began when he was approached by both the local Republican and Democratic parties in 1992 to run for a state House seat held by an unpopular Democrat.
“Lindsey came to me and said, ‘What do you think?’” said Mr. Brandt, a lifelong Democrat. “Lindsey and I talked a lot over time about issues, and there’s no doubt Lindsey was a Democrat on all social issues.”
Ultimately, he said, Mr. Graham’s decision came down to calculation more than deep partisan feeling: The Democratic primary would be competitive; if he ran as a Republican, he would be able to devote himself to the general election.
He won, and within a few years was elected to Congress, which in 1999 led to a career-making performance as a House manager in President Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial. Mr. McCain was so impressed with the barbed, folksy one-liners that he invited Mr. Graham back to his Senate office, where he declared himself a fan — and, oh, would Mr. Graham endorse him for president in 2000?
“I said, ‘Yeah,’” recalled Mr. Graham, who remembers thinking, in the moment, how far he had come from the Sanitary Cafe. “No one’s ever asked me to help them run for president. If Bush had asked me before him, I’d have probably said yes.”
After Mr. Graham’s election to the Senate in 2002, the two became inseparable, communicating by flip-phone, often several times an hour, with Mr. Graham serving as sounding board, soother and tactical adviser. Their influence peaked as they supported the Iraq war before joining forces to question the Bush administration’s strategy and interrogation methods. They shared a vision for the Republican Party — inclusive, center-right, hawkish on foreign policy, more moderate on immigration and other domestic issues.
But that ideal had long been fading when Mr. Graham joined Mr. McCain at his ranch in Sedona, Ariz., on election night 2016. Mr. Graham still believed Hillary Clinton would win in a romp, yet there he was, incredulously watching the returns come in for Mr. Trump, uttering profanities over and over and over.
“I was in shock for a week,” Mr. Graham recalled. It did not take him long to make a decision. “Am I going to be fighting a rear-guard action here? Or am I going to try to work with him?”
‘An Abiding Need to Be in the Room’
Mr. McCain, whose own presidential aspirations ended after his loss to Barack Obama in 2008, had urged Mr. Graham to run in 2016. But he warned his friend against engaging in a one-on-one verbal brawl with Mr. Trump. Mr. Graham did not listen.
“I want to talk to the Trump supporters for a minute. I don’t know who you are and why you like this guy,” Mr. Graham said on CNN in late 2015, before quitting the race. “Here’s what you’re buying: He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic bigot. He doesn’t represent my party.”
Yet scarcely two months after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, a grinning Mr. Graham could be found in the office of the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, chatting with Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top advisers.
The senator had been orchestrating his West Wing appearance, steadily softening his criticism of Mr. Trump on Fox, and working some of the network’s pro-Trump hosts, with the knowledge that the president would be watching. He had also had dinner with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
Mr. Graham’s presence bewildered some Trump aides, but not people who knew him. “He has an abiding need to be in the room, no matter what the cost,” said Hollis Felkel, a veteran South Carolina Republican political consultant.
Mr. Graham said he was there to sell the president on a more hawkish foreign policy at a time when Mr. Trump was vowing quick withdrawals from Afghanistan. He was surprised, he said, how friendly the president was. Indeed, to hear Mr. Graham talk about his interactions with Mr. Trump is to be struck by how much he seems to relish them.
“He came in and he was very gracious, like he’s trying to sell me a condo, showed me around,” Mr. Graham recalled.
Mr. Graham said he reciprocated by praising his host’s political skills and pledging to support him when he could, especially on judicial nominations. He soon followed up with a flurry of phone conversations on politics, gossip and golf.
That led to the prize Mr. Graham wanted from the start: an invitation to Mr. Trump’s club in Virginia.
“Where it all changed is when we went for golf,” Mr. Graham said.
Mr. Trump had his own motivations for making nice. He was an interloper who craved legitimacy, and found the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, unapproachable and humorless. Mr. Graham, according to Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist at the time, wasn’t a “stiff,” like so many others in Congress.
“The senator closest to Trump was Lindsey Graham, and it’s not even a question,” Mr. Bannon said. “Have you met Lindsey Graham? I like him, and I think he’s the worst.”
Like Mr. McCain, Mr. Trump was drawn to Mr. Graham’s ambidextrous, pragmatic politics — and his strategic amiability.
“People apparently found the combination of my slight stature and gabby nature comical,” Mr. Graham wrote in his 2015 memoir, referring to a coping strategy learned in childhood. “I was expected to entertain folks. And I knew the more audacious I was the more entertaining I would be.”
Mr. Trump also told his staff that he preferred the company of people he had turned — former enemies who had come to see that he was actually a good guy they could respect.
Mr. McCain was decidedly not turned. While he understood the need to make peace with the party’s leader, he told Mr. Graham flatly that the president “is not one of us.”
He kept his temper in check until Mr. Graham started raving about how “such a big, older guy” could put up an 18-hole score that nearly matched his age, according to a mutual friend.
“My ass he shot a 70!” Mr. McCain yelled.
“John was just surprised and to certain extent disappointed, but not really angry, with the closeness of the Lindsey Graham relationship with Trump,” said Joseph Lieberman, a former Democratic senator from Connecticut who was close to both lawmakers.
When Mr. McCain’s aggressive brain tumor was diagnosed in the summer of 2017, Mr. Graham compartmentalized, comforting his friend and courting Mr. Trump.
The president enlisted Mr. Graham and another McCain ally, Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, to win over Mr. McCain on a key campaign promise, repealing Obamacare, and Mr. Graham eagerly agreed. Both assured White House officials they had persuaded Mr. McCain to vote “yes,” according to former West Wing aides involved in the talks.
They had not. On July 28, a dying Mr. McCain returned to Washington to deliver his defiant thumbs-down, and it seemed, for a moment, that Mr. Trump’s grip on the party was not as tight as he claimed.
There would be one more act. The McCain family had insisted that the president and his entourage would not be welcome at the senator’s state funeral, but Ivanka Trump, who had collaborated with Mr. McCain’s wife, Cindy, on the issue of human trafficking, insisted on attending. It was Mr. Graham who persuaded Ms. McCain to reluctantly extend an invitation to Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner.
Afterward, Mr. McCain’s daughter Meghan angrily told the late-night host Stephen Colbert, “My father had been very clear about the line between the McCains and the Trumps.”
By this time, Trump aides were noticing a curious dynamic: It wasn’t just that the president absolved Mr. Graham for the Obamacare debacle; the senator was one of the few people who could get away with taking on Mr. Trump and his temper.
The most common source of flare-ups was Afghanistan. During one golf outing, the two men got into a screaming match after Mr. Graham said he would rather deal with a bomb killing civilians in Kabul “than in Times Square.”
Mr. Trump barked an expletive, shouted, “You guys have been wrong for 20 years,” and stomped off, according to a person who witnessed the exchange.
A few minutes later, they were chatting amiably as if nothing had happened, the person said.
Some of the president’s top advisers were growing annoyed by Mr. Graham’s pesky omnipresence — finagling flights on Air Force One, showing up at the West Wing on little notice. “Sometimes he’d just like to sit with the president in the dining room off the Oval at the end of the day,” a former senior White House official said.
In early 2019, as the Trumps were sitting down to dinner, Mr. Graham phoned up the president’s assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, to say he was coming up to the White House residence with Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, to discuss a plan to address one of the many crises plaguing the administration.
Mr. Trump obliged, Melania Trump felt put upon and nothing came of it, aides familiar with the episode said.
‘I’m the Senator From South Carolina’
Mr. McCain’s death in August 2018 had been a profound loss for Mr. Graham, and during the interview in his office, he nearly broke down describing the hours he spent at his friend’s hospital bedside, holding his hand, during those final days in Arizona.
Yet he also acknowledged that the dissolution of the partnership had freed him to look after his own political interests, which entailed cozying up to the right-wing populists who increasingly dominated his party in South Carolina.
“I jokingly refer to Senator Graham as Senator Graham 1.0 and the Senator Graham 2.0 who came along during the Trump years, the 2.0 being the preferred upgrade,” said Nate Leupp, chairman of the Greenville County Republicans and one of several party leaders in South Carolina who said they had long been wary of the senator’s “maverick alliances.”
Mr. Graham’s 2016 presidential primary bid — a bit of a lark, intended to vault him to the national stage as a solo act — had been a humiliating reminder of how vulnerable he was at home: When he dropped out in December 2015, he was polling in single digits in South Carolina.
His McCain-esque positions on immigration and trade, he admits, were part of the problem. “I adore John McCain. Yeah, he’s done more to mentor me and help me than any single person in politics,” Mr. Graham said. “But having said that, I’m the senator from South Carolina.”
Perhaps the most sensitive issue for Mr. Graham was his bipartisan record on judicial appointments.
Mr. Graham had long argued that presidents deserved to have their judicial nominees confirmed, and in 2010, he voted for Mr. Obama’s first Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan. It came at a cost: Anti-abortion protesters in South Carolina hanged him in effigy, and when he ran for re-election in 2014, six primary opponents popped up, each hammering him for being too liberal on the courts.
Mr. Graham has played down the episode, but it clearly scarred him.
“I have triplets, and I would probably do anything, including breaking the law, to protect them. He’s got a Senate seat,” Mick Mulvaney, the former acting White House chief of staff, said of Mr. Graham on a recent podcast.
So when a second Supreme Court vacancy opened up in early 2016, Mr. Graham signed on to Mr. McConnell’s refusal to allow a Senate vote on the nomination of Merrick Garland, on the grounds that it came too close to the November election.
And several people described a similar determination to prove his conservative bona fides in what was probably Mr. Graham’s most memorable public performance in the service of Mr. Trump: his outraged defense of Brett M. Kavanaugh, whom he had known for a decade, against sexual misconduct allegations during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings in September 2018.
“You’re legitimizing the most despicable thing I have seen in my time in politics!” Mr. Graham said.
Yet if Mr. Graham’s performance won him kudos from skeptics back home, it did not translate into safety ahead of his re-election campaign. The election became a referendum, of sorts, on Mr. Graham’s shotgun conversion to Trumpism.
In mid-2019, his eventual Democratic opponent, Jaime Harrison, began raising tens of millions of dollars from donors nationwide. And after a mid-September 2020 poll showed the candidates in a dead heat, Mr. Harrison raised $1 million in 24 hours, part of a $57 million quarter, the richest for any Senate candidate in history.
“I’m getting overwhelmed,” Mr. Graham lamented to Sean Hannity on Fox. “LindseyGraham.com. Help me.”
Behind the scenes, Mr. McConnell tapped his national fund-raising network, channeling $10 million to Mr. Graham’s cause, and two Ohio-based dark-money groups chipped in $4.4 million.
As for Mr. Trump, he made one appearance with Mr. Graham in South Carolina and cut one campaign ad. But he did let Mr. Graham raise money off his brand, and, in the end, the senator raked in about $111 million, almost nine times what he had raised in 2014 and nearly as much as Mr. Harrison.
Mr. Graham won by 10 points.
After the Election
Even with a renewed six-year lease on public life, Mr. Graham hasn’t stopped tap dancing.
In the days following the election, he scrambled to stay on Mr. Trump’s good side, publicly urging him not to concede until he had exhausted all his legal challenges and listening calmly on late-night phone calls as the president raged about a stolen election. He even wrote a $500,000 check to aid Mr. Trump’s legal defense.
But privately he was already reaching out to Mr. Biden and counseling Mr. Trump to ramp down his rhetoric. And he steadfastly refused to appear at news conferences with Mr. Trump’s legal team or repeat their false claims — which annoyed the president and infuriated his son Donald Jr., always a Graham skeptic, retweeting stories with a “#whereslindsey” hashtag when he felt the senator was not standing up for his father.
The biggest source of residual anger inside the Trump bubble was Mr. Graham’s refusal, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to acquiesce to White House demands for hearings into Hunter Biden’s business dealings.
Mr. Graham said all the right things on Fox, and hinted he would get to the bottom of the matter. But his staff advised him that it was impossible to tell reality from disinformation, so he delayed and deliberated, happily deferring to the homeland security committee.
He had a better relationship with the president’s middle son, Eric, yet he, too, was growing frustrated that the senator would not even retweet claims of election fraud. At a family meeting, he fumed that Mr. Graham had always been “weak” and would pay a price because his father would be the most powerful Republican for years to come, according to a political aide who was within earshot. Mr. Trump was working the senator, too, according to people familiar with the exchanges.
Mr. Graham said that what happened next had nothing to do with the pressure bearing down on him. But on Nov. 13, he called Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, the first of a series of interventions Mr. Trump and his allies were to make into the tallying of the results in Georgia.
Mr. Raffensperger has said that Mr. Graham asked if there was a legal way, using the state courts, to toss out all mail-in votes from counties with high rates of questionable signatures. And a Raffensperger aide who was on the call said in an interview that Mr. Graham’s goal was getting as many ballots thrown out as possible.
Even so, he made no overt request to discard ballots, according to another Raffensperger aide, Gabriel Sterling. As such, prosecutors investigating the Trump camp’s actions in Georgia would probably have difficulty establishing any wrongdoing by Mr. Graham.
In the interview, Mr. Graham laughed off the idea that he had done anything wrong, saying he had called “Ratzenberger” simply to ask about auditing signatures.
Around the same time, he made another call, to Governor Ducey in Arizona. His aim, Mr. Graham said, was not to overturn Mr. Biden’s narrow victory but to counter the “garbage” Mr. Trump was getting from his own legal team, according to an aide who was given a readout.
In Mr. Graham’s mind, he had threaded the needle: He had professed loyalty and value to Mr. Trump while taking an unequivocal public stand, as Mr. Biden’s inauguration approached, opposing efforts to block certification of the election.
Then came Jan. 6, and his presumed declaration of independence.
Mr. Graham, in fact, began softening his tone almost immediately, following a tongue-lashing from the president and a confrontation, two days after the Capitol assault, with dozens of Trump supporters at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, chanting: “Traitor! Traitor!”
By Jan. 13, when Mr. Trump was impeached on charges of inciting the riot, Mr. Graham was back on board, offering advice on how to quell a possible revolt by Republican senators. What followed, in the eyes of many Senate colleagues, was a frenzied overcorrection.
Mr. Graham has become an ever-more-frequent face on Fox, denying the existence of systemic racism and decrying federal aid to Black farmers as “reparations.” He posted a video of himself firing an AR-15 bought as protection from marauding “gangs” and forcefully backed Ms. Cheney’s expulsion from House leadership. He has embraced the culture-war grandstanding that he and Mr. McCain mocked when they were a team — recently saying he would “go to war” against students at the University of Notre Dame for trying to block a Chick-fil-A on campus over the anti-L.G.B.T.-rights politics of its executives.
Yet there are signs Mr. Graham may be playing an inside-outside game. He has placed himself at the center of a monthslong effort to draft bipartisan police-reform legislation and recently met with the Rev. Al Sharpton to hear him out on the bill. He voted for Mr. Biden’s infrastructure bill (and got censured for doing so by the Republican Party in Aiken County, S.C.). And when he tested positive for Covid-19 after being inoculated, he made a point of telling vaccine deniers in his own party to get their shots.
During his near-weekly golfing trips to Mar-a-Lago, he said, he is still trying to persuade Mr. Trump to “take it down a notch.” He remains convinced he can get him to play by the rules, and not the other way around.
Many of the people who have known him longest are not so sure.
From his office in Walhalla, just up the road from Central, Mr. Graham’s old law partner, Mr. Brandt, has been thinking about something the senator told him during a visit eight or nine years ago.
“Larry, you are too honest to survive in Washington,” Mr. Graham said. “Eighty-five percent of the people there would sell their mothers to keep their jobs.”
Mr. Brandt ran into Mr. Graham at a local restaurant in 2017, as the senator was beginning to court Mr. Trump. Mr. Brandt took him to task, reminding him of their “85 percent” conversation. “I said, ‘Lindsey, don’t sell your mother,’” he recalled.
Two years later, Mr. Graham called to say he was coming back to town, and could they have dinner? Mr. Brandt said he was eager to see him — and to give him an earful about his friendship with the president. Mr. Graham said sure, and promised to ring back.
“I’m still waiting on that call,” Mr. Brandt said.
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